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UPSC Mains 2022

How will you explain the medieval Indian temple sculptures represent the social life of those days?

General Studies Paper 1, Topic: Art and architecture

Dec 28, 2022

3 min read

Medieval Indian temple sculptures are a treasure trove of information about the social life of those days. These intricate and detailed carvings depict not only religious beliefs and practices but also provide a glimpse into the daily lives of the people, their customs and traditions, and their cultural values. Among the most important temples in India, five stand out for their exceptional sculptural work: Khajuraho, Konark, Elephanta, Ellora, and Meenakshi.


Khajuraho, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is renowned for its temples that display a highly advanced and mature style of art. The temples, built between 950 and 1050 AD, are a testament to the artistic and architectural skills of the Chandela dynasty. The temples, dedicated to both Hinduism and Jainism, are adorned with sculptures that depict various aspects of life, including daily routines, courtly life, and religious ceremonies. The sculptures, carved panels, and open pavilion style temples of theGurjara-Pratihara are well-known for their artistic excellence. The most significant advancement in their temple-building style occurred at Khajuraho. The design, structure, and placement of the building's components are symbolic and represent the core Hindu values.


The Sun Temple of Konark is also a masterpiece of Indian temple sculpture. Built in the 13th century (attributed to king Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga dynasty about 1250 CE.), the temple is dedicated to the sun god Surya and is renowned for its architectural grandeur and sculptural excellence. The temple is adorned with intricate carvings that depict scenes from the daily life of the people, as well as religious and mythological stories.


The Elephanta Caves, located on Elephanta Island in Maharashtra, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are renowned for their rock-cut sculptures. The caves, dating back to the 6th century AD, are dedicated to Lord Shiva and are adorned with impressive sculptures that depict various aspects of the god's life and mythology.


Ellora Caves, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are famous for their rock-cut temples and sculptures. The temples, dating back to the 6th and 10th centuries AD, are dedicated to Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism and feature intricate carvings that depict religious stories and rituals.


The Meenakshi Temple in Madurai is also renowned for its sculptural excellence. The temple, built in the 17th century, is dedicated to the goddess Meenakshi and features an impressive array of sculptures that depict various aspects of the goddess's life and mythology.


In conclusion, medieval Indian temple sculptures are a window into the past, providing a wealth of information about the society and culture of those days. The five temples mentioned are particularly noteworthy for their exceptional sculptural work and provide a glimpse into the social life, artistic and architectural skills of the time.

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